Dog, cat, and mouse in the South Atlantic


Argentina, the world press tells us, intends to rename its top soccer league the “Cruiser General Belgrano First Division”, in honour of the Argentine ship sunk by the Royal Navy during the 1982 Falklands War. Far be it from any outsider to prescribe how a country honours its war dead, but honour is not what the move is about: it’s part of a continuing, exhausting barrage of Falklands agitprop from Argentina’s Kirchner government. Kirchner is scrambling to keep Argentine economic growth rolling, barracking businesses and workers in the classic caudillo manner as inflation outpaces the dubious official statistics. She has tried, with some success, to close off Southern Hemisphere ports to boats flying the maritime flag of the Falklands and to weld traditionally UK-friendly neighbours into a regional bloc against “colonialism”. Tensions are high and the Falkland Islanders are feeling besieged.

Britain is passing through a phase of relative strategic vulnerability when it comes to the Falklands. The islands are garrisoned much more strongly than they were in 1982 and the RAF has a proper airfield. But the UK has sold off its Harrier fleet, and its naval force-projection capacity is a little threadbare; public austerity has forced the Royal Navy to wait until 2016 for a new Nimitz-scale aircraft-carrier class to come into play. General Sir Michael Jackson, often considered the top UK commentator on military affairs (how many General Sirs are there?), recently summed up the situation by suggesting that the Falklands could be defended—but if Argentina captured them in a coup de main, as it did in ’82, its soldiers could probably not now be driven off. From a game-theoretic standpoint, the situation is a nightmare.

Argentine drum-whacking about Las Malvinas is often dismissed as a “distraction” created by whatever party is in charge there. Certainly there are younger people and leftists in Argentina who, despite years of brainwashing, manage to regard the islands with the same friendly calm with which a Canadian contemplates St. Pierre and Miquelon. (SPM’s history is very much like that of the Falklands in the cultural details, and they are a hell of a lot closer to Canadian soil. Like Argentina, Canada’s a colonial successor state; like Britain, France is a former Great Power. This situation doesn’t seem to infuriate anyone here, with the possible exception of a few Newfoundland fishermen.) But the tinkering with high-level soccer is a troubling sign. It suggests that the appetite for Malvinas nonsense in Argentina still cuts across classes and regions and parties; how would it be possible otherwise?

There probably won’t be war. (Fingers crossed.) To return to game theory, one acknowledged mistake the British made in 1982 was failing to signal their determination to protect the Falklands. The Argentine dictatorship did not expect a fight. Britain’s showing its teeth now by emphasizing its moral high ground, refusing to negotiate sovereignty, sending royal visitors to the islands, and in general making as impressive a show of force as possible. Unfortunately, that has led the usual suspects—naïve internationalist “observers”, of the same political stripe as those who spread ridiculous lies about UK atrocities in ’82—to declaim how unfortunate it is that there is so much belligerence on “both” sides. (Notice how little room there is in such a “two-sided” schema for the people of the islands.) On Monday Kirchner trotted out actor Sean Penn to denounce the British “colonialist ideology” that, er, keeps Argentina from taking over an island full of people who don’t want to belong to Argentina.

Penn has the right to an opinion, and, happily, the rest of us have the right to call him a morally lobotomized, infallibly irresponsible egomaniac. It’s quite fascinating to watch Penn roam the globe sucking up to dictators and personality cultists; 30 years ago he would have had the potential “excuse” of a higher loyalty to communism for speaking cretinous balderdash, but we learn from watching him now that some people are just loyal to brutality and stupidity, period. In the case of the Falklands, the narrative of British “colonialism” depends on a view of the islanders (when they are considered at all) as an “implanted” rabble, agents of imperialism who deserve to be swept into the sea for having had the wrong birthplace.

The islanders naturally have a different perception of themselves, one that is surprisingly complicated and that is rarely represented even in congenial Anglosphere media. They don’t really want to be considered anyone’s colony, and it is increasingly unreasonable to describe them as one. The Falklands had no indigenous population when Britain and Spain were squabbling over them in the early 19th century, but they arguably have one now—a multiracial people, if not quite a “nation”, that considers itself distinct from Britain, that prizes its political autonomy, and that in many cases has roots in the Falklands going back seven, eight, nine generations. Maybe the Falkland Islanders should be allowed to invade Argentina and ethnically cleanse its “implanted” Latin population?


Dog, cat, and mouse in the South Atlantic

  1. Yeah, It’s funny, in a non-humorous way, and sad, to say the least, how so many people believe that territory belongs to a government or to a country and not to the people who actually live there. Here in Spain (I’m an expat Canadian) there are recurring waves of outrage that the UK won’t hand over Gilbraltar to the ministrations of the Spanish government and equal waves of outrage when Morocco suggests that the North African enclaves of Ceuta and Mellila are really theirs. Go figure.

    Cheers, Henry Cybulski

    • In Catalonia, Barcelona, the Basque region, Valencia and in fact all over Spain there are recurring waves of outrage at being a part of Spain as well.

      It’s not just the fact that the people who live in a place might have their own opinions.  It’s also the fact that there can be a wide range of opinions from the people who live in a place, sometimes the views changing from house to house. 

      Self-determination is not a simple matter. 

      Just look at Quebec. There are people there that have been there for hundreds of years that wish to remain a part of Canada.  There are also people there that have for hundreds of years held a deep disdain for the British and to the rest of Canada.  Sometimes these people live right next to each other. Sometimes they get along perfectly fine – but their opinions regarding self-determination can differ widely.

      •  Differences of opinion within a region are one thing; a government trying to annex the territory and take sovereignty over another people is a totally distinct, and totally vile, usually leading to horrific bloodshedding. Bosnia comes to mind, not to mention the Nazis in World War 2 (which my family managed to survive after being first ousted by the Germans and then the Russians) and any number of military conflicts that have arisen over the centuries.

        Cheers, Henry Cybulski

    • Sean Penn is a leftist fool. A good actor but a complete idiot.

  2. Unfortunately history produced many anomolies in the 21st century and the US having Hawaii as a State despite being nowhere near the coast of the US is an example, as is Guam.

    As a Brit this issue of the Falklands is a non issue to many of my fellow countrymen. Why it exercises the minds of a near dictatorship like Argentina is a mystery to most of us as it has never belonged to them – ever – apart from a couple of historical episodes in 1833 and 1982 when they tried to take them illegally ie claimed squatters rights and were then correctly expelled from the islands.

    Squatters rights doesnt give you the right to sovereignty and anyway the islands are not sovereign British terriroty which appears to be overlooked here. The FI are a British Protectorate and it is the right of the islanders to decide who they wish to be aligned with. In this case and as it stands they wish to remain aligned to the UK. If they ever wish to be aligned with Argentina or anyone else then the UK has indicated that it will do what it can to help them achieve that aim.

    It is pure hypocrisy on the part of the Argentines to call the UK a colonial power when it is the south americans who are trying to take the Islands against the wishes of the Islanders ie in flagrant disregard of the UN charter that they signed up to which includes the right of self determination.

    The Argentines are a fledgling democracy and they are famed for walking out of meetings or declining agreements once they start to go against them. It seems fairly typical of them to pick on an Island with just 3,000 inhabitants and try, very dictatorially, to oust them from a  home land that some families have enjoyed for 9 generations. It is form for the Argentines to dispute territories with their neighbours and there are other examples of taking or trying to claim territory that arent theirs.

    Argentina has a number of growing internal problems such as an economic performance that the IMF does not believe and has given them 180 days to restore credability in. They are now an energy importer; the government is trying to stop a flight of money from their central banks as people start to get nervy; the free press has been silenced; the whiff of corruption still lingers and their MP’s have just been given a 100% pay rise despite many hardships for the normal Argentine. Finally it hasnt gone un noticed that the president is trying to change the country’s constitution so that she can have more time in power.

    Unfortunately Argentine obsession with the islands means that this issue is very unlikely to ever go away so we are stuck with it, however it is to be hoped that the discovery of oil in and around the FI territorial waters in the South Atlantic will see a transformation of the Islanders economy and way of life. In short oil and Argentine posturing will now ensure that the south americans have no chance of ever getting it back militarily as the UK now uses the place as a strategic posting and a gateway to supplying the Antarctic.

    People see through the Argentine game but their claim fools no one living in the real world.

    Nazi Germany went the distance in 1945, colonial Britain has been an out dated term now for decades as country after country gains independence but like the Falklands Islanders, out of choice, they choose to be aligned to the Uk through the commonwealth.

    there may be a lot wrong with the UK but there is also a lot right. Defending a right of self determination is one of those things that we have got right.

  3. Canada should demand Saint Pierre – Miquelon from dastardly and imperialist France. Our armed services aren’t doing anything at moment, and French are busy with trying to keep their country from going bankrupt, now is ideal time. Or maybe we can send Canadian Francos to live on the islands and their hearts would be full of joy that they were once again proper French people who no longer live under brutal yoke of Anglo rule. 

    Daily Telegraph ~

    I’d like to make a statement about the growing crisis in the Americas. It’s time for justice. It’s time for liberty. It’s time to end the ludicrous and archaic commitment to colonialist ideology. It’s time Sean Penn handed his Malibu estate back to the Mexicans.

    His continued occupation of Malibu is an unacceptable mockery of national self-determination. The Mexicans owned that stretch of real estate well into the early 19th century and it was stolen by the Americans in a naked act of imperialist aggression. America’s claim over Malibu is tenuous and rooted in patriarchy. Sean Penn’s house is a mocking reminder of that brute chauvinism, with its high white walls and spacious interiors. Its swimming pool is an insult to the honour of the Mexican people.

    Now, I know that some will say that the Mexicans never actually lived on Sean Penn’s estate. But how many of them have worked there? Think of the maids, the cleaners, the butlers, the pool boys, the cooks, the gardeners. Think of the sweat that has dripped pouring Martinis, or the blood that was spilt pruning the roses. Truly, Sean Penn’s estate is part of Aztlan.

    • Canada can’t “demand” control of the islands of St Pierre et Miquelon for several reasons :

      (1) It would invalidate a number of treaties if done unilaterally;
      (2) The islands were given by Britain to France. The Foreign office has always stated that the interpretation of the treaties mean that if France were to abandon the islands, they would be returned to Britain;
      (3) Such an act of aggression and imperialism would destroy Canada’s reputation on the international scene as a peacekeeper;
      (4) The islanders have no wish to become par of Canada now nor never;

      • Newfoundlanders voted to become part of Canada rather than part of Britain.  Same goes for lots of eastern Canada.  So it is not inconceivable for the same to eventually occur on SP and M, should the territory ever return to British control.

        Anyway, TonyAdams was just joking.

  4. Just one tiny quibble. The Queen Elizabeth class carrier is not “Nimitz sized”. It displaces around 65,000 tons where the Nimitz comes in at 100,000 tons. It’s way bigger and more capable a carrier than anything the British have had before and is a really nice piece of kit, but it’s still not quite in the same class as the Nimitz and her sister ships. 

    • Let’s change it to “scale”, that’s probably more appropriate.

  5. The lack of commitment of so-called “internationalists” to a fundamental principle of international law – self-determination – is infuriating.

  6. From everything I’ve read the residents do consider themselves British.

      • Good question. 

        I already clicked on that link, and it supports your point for sure.

        According to these pics they sure do like the Union Jack:×4-convoy-tell-Sean-Penn-stick-views.html

        Most in those pics were flying both their own flag and the UK flag.

        For sure, like most far-flung outposts of the former British empire, the inhabitants likely consider themselves distinct from the rest of the UK as well, and they probably are in many ways.  I’d also bet that you’d get different views from each Islander as well.

        So I’m not entirely trying to contradict your point.

        What it means to be British is not a simple matter.  Certainly a large proportion of Scotland or Northern Ireland do not see themselves as British.  There are also independence movements in Wales and Isle of Manx.  In fact, I’d guess almost every British territory or region, from Guernsey to Jersey to Gibraltar, from the Caymans to the British Virgins, from the South Sandwich Islands to St George, I’ll bet almost all have some form of a independence movement, while likely all of them also have a sizeable proportion of their population who feel strongly British as well.

  7. In this question, there is much misinformation! The islands were discovered by Spanish, Esteban Gomez (1520), in 1790 in the British Nootka Convention agreed that the islands are Spanish, in 1823 took possession Luis Maria Vernet (Argentina) the exploitation of resources of the islands in 1833 with guns fire, John James Onslow drive out all the Argentines! was asked to the 250 Argentine, 1833 for their views. about self-determination?

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    • Did the English colonists in Port Egmont get asked for their views in 1771?  They were chucked out in the same way.  For every offence to the State of Buenos Aires government of 1831 and 1833 there is an offence against the British. By the way, Uruguay may have a right to East Falkland because the garrison was run from Uruguay when it was Spanish and the Chileans may have some sort of claim from proximity but Argentina/United Provinces/Buenos Aires or whatever the country was that you claim you are descended from has no claim whatsoever.

      The simple fact is that Argentina has not got a leg to stand on.  Even if Argentina did have a case, and it hasnt, if 180 year old sovereignty claims were revisited on a global scale three quarters of the countries in the world would have to change sovereignty in whole or part.  Argentina would certainly lose Patagonia to the Kingdom of the Mapuche, the USA would be rolled back to the Mississippi, half of the map of Europe would be redrawn.  Why stop at 180 years?  This is nonsense.

  8. I suggest reading the Wikipedia, there is the whole story. They know which is the continental shelf? I think that is the boundary between the waters of a country, and international waters! is that Las Malvinas are on the continental shelf of Argentina! My solution would be that the Kelpers choose to be British or Argentine or both, to keep their possessions, culture but Argentina’s sovereignty must be right and not by the British arms!

    • And I would suggest, Claudio, that Wikipedia is neither the word of God nor an UN Charter. Oh and by the way, it doesn’t matter one bit upon which continental shelf any country finds itself – the clue is in the word “continental” – by your logic then the UK would rightly belong to France or Canada to the US. It just won’t wash Claudio, it just won’t wash!

  9. I suggest reading the Wikipedia, there is the whole story. They know which is the continental shelf? I think that is the boundary between the waters of a country, and international waters! is that Las Malvinas are on the continental shelf of Argentina! My solution would be that the Kelpers choose to be British or Argentine or both, to keep their possessions, culture , to continue their normal daily lives, but Argentina’s sovereignty must be right, are British by force of arms! Reason or Barbarism of arms, supported you?

    • The Argentines only acquired rights to the continental shelf off Patagonia after invading and exterminating the natives in a shameful act of genocide in the late nineteenth century.  They did this despite having a peace treaty with the Patagonians and clauses in their constitution that forbade aggressive violence towards them.

      Argentina conquered Patagonia in 1881 but British sovereignty over the Falklands dates back to the late 18th century – even the Spanish acknowledged British rights in West Falkland in 1775.  Argentina cannot invade a neighbouring country, such as Patagonia, then insist that it has always had rights to the continental shelf that is occupied by countries that already abut this invaded territory such as the Falklands.  The UN Convention on the Continental Shelf says no such thing – such a provision would give the French rights to Britain or the Malaysians rights to Indonesia!

      See The Falkland Islands have always been Argentine.

  10. Mr. Vernet representing the government of Argentina.Buenos Aires, took possession of the Malvinas in 1820, until his firing in 1833, British “with the reason for the weapons.” Vernet and 150 Argentines wanted to be Argentine, 1833, living in the Malvinas.asked to this people about self-determination? The fact is that the islands were not “abandoned”, were conquered and expelled the Argentine civilians legitimate owners. In Argentina there are people of 10 or more nationalities, have dual citizenship, including half a million descendants of British, all they want governments, feel and seek the best solution for everyone!

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  11. This is about oil controlling the (potentially) massive oil deposits around the Falklands.  Everything else is fluff.  Unfortunately, for the 3200 people that live on the island, they might be in the fluff column.  

    I’m really surprised that there was no mention of this in your column.  Oil deposits on the scale of 60 billion barrels has lead others to author a whole lot of your Malvinas-style “nonsense” in other times and places.   

    • I actually thought it was going to be all about the oil, lol

      “The future oil industry in the Falklands could be worth around US$180 billion in royalties and taxes, according to new research.This comes as political tensions continue to rise as the 30 year anniversary of the Falklands war approaches and the debate over the islands’ sovereignty resurfaces.”